Home > Broadway Buzz > Q & A > Brenda Braxton March 9 , 2005
Brenda Braxton
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Brenda Braxton
by David Drake

©2004 Joan Marcus
Brenda Braxton
in Chicago
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Played at the gorgeous old Mark Hellinger. Now it's the Times Square Church. Be honest, don't you want it back?
Oh, yes, yes. I don't know what the thought pattern behind that was ... [Laughs] But, oh my God, yes, I want it back.

Along with your considerable theater awards, you've received some prestigious honors from leading African-American instituions like the NAACP, the National Council of Negro Women and the Martin Luther King Jr “Living a Dream Award. So, I wondered if you had any thoughts about this year's Oscars?
Well, I didn't see them, cause we had a show that night. I was so happy they had Chris Rock hosting, though. And I hear he did a good job!

Well, afterwards, Roger Ebert was saying, that with two major acting awards going to African-Americans this year—similar to 2002, when Denzel Washington and Halle Berry won—"that the story is," he said, "that it's not a story any more."
It's not a story anymore?

They were discussing how things had changed, and that now black people winning Oscars “wasn't as big a deal.”
Well, it is a big deal. We still have a long way to go. Honestly, I don't think a lot of African-Americans watch the awards shows because it's just been so—for lack of a better word—wrong. And even with Chris Rock being the host, people are like, "Hmm, okay, it's still a white awards show." Maybe now that Jamie Fox and Morgan Freeman have won, people will start going, "Oh, okay. Maybe they're trying to be a little more fair now, so maybe we'll start watching it." But it's still not there yet. See, cause... we don't know if it's real yet. If it's true yet. Cause maybe they'll just go, "Well, we'll let this happen this year. But then we're gonna go right back to what we were doing." You know? So, it's going to take some time to see if this is really changing.

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Speaking of making changes, you founded the "Leading Ladies Just For Teens"—with seminars for adolescent girls, right?
Yeah. They're wonderful. Mostly girls from twelve to eighteen. But when I was doing Smokey Joe's, I had some as young as six! They're from different areas in the city—Queens, the Bronx. And I tell them I was brought up in the Bronx, and was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I teach them how important it is to have a dream. And go after that dream. To respect yourself, and not to let anyone disrespect you.

Do you show them backstage?
Yeah, on a tour. Cause then they get to see how we have a lot of women working in, what you'd call, "non-traditional" jobs. It's important for them to see those jobs too. Because they always see us on stage and go, "Wow, that's fabulous! But I could never do that!" So you say, "Well, you may not be able to do that but look what's going on backstage... you could be an electrician!"

That's so cool. It must bring you a lot of joy?
Oh, yeah. They do. I wish I could do more. Truth is, I'm more nervous before one of those seminars than I am before an opening night of a show! Because kids, you know, they're honest. They don't take no shit. They always come in these hard-assed girls, like "I don't need to be here." But once I get in there and start talking to them—and see that first girl crack a smile—I go, okay, I'm good now.

 
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